A2 Politics Socialism Notes

These are a set of notes on all the key concepts and content summary within the AQA A2 Unit 3B Ideologies specification on Socialism.

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Key concepts
1) Fraternity
o A term, literally referring to `brotherhood', commonly used in socialism and suggesting that
members of the working class have a common bond that is as strong as a family link.
o Thus, all members of the working class are, effectively, brothers. All humans share the basic
nature and have the same interests.
o All differences of class, religion, nationality and race are secondary. Conflict is unnatural,
created by vested interests manipulating these false differences.
o Links to the core value of community - which is a collectivist vision as it stresses the capacity
of human beings for collective action, their willingness to pursue goals by working together
as opposed to striving for personal interest.
o From this human beings are comrades, brothers, and sisters, family ­ tied to one another by a
common bond of humanity.
o Socialists believe human nature is `plastic', moulded by the experiences and circumstances of
social life.
o Links back to Trade Unions, and the formation of socialism has a correlation that comes from
the working class.
o Today the working class tends to vote for the Labour Party due to their promises of retaining
a welfare system and aiding those deemed `less fortunate' as they strive for equality.
2) Class-conflict
o Most people define their social position in terms of their class.
o This implies that they develop a sense of common interests and common purpose with other
members of class ­ Marx `class consciousness'
o All but more modern socialists see social class as a crucial aspect of society.
o Different strands of socialism produced a variety of responses to growing class conflict in the
nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
o Revolutionary socialists ­ conflicts of interests cant be resolved within the context of
capitalism, so they suggest the abolishment of capitalism and its replacement with a socialist
order that will eliminate class conflict all together.
o Non-revolutionary socialists ­ form government that will operate in the interests of the
working class. The most common form of socialist system that has been promoted by such
socialists is one in which most production and distribution is organized by a central state.
o Democratic socialists ­ modify capitalism. Control capitalism extensively, intervenes with
the state on industry, commerce, and high levels of state sponsored welfare provision.
o Social democracy ­ dominant form of socialism in Europe since the 1980's, downplays the
importance of class. The state can work simply in the broad national interest, seeking a
consensus not based on class at all.
o Many commentators have suggested that movements that no longer analyze society in terms
of class should not be described as socialist. New Labour in the UK would fall into this
o Marxist and revolutionary socialism ­ society is understood in terms of class and class
interest; revolutionary socialists seek a state organized exclusively in the interests of the
working class; Marxist seek an ultimately classless society.
o Democratic socialism ­ adopts a class analysis of society; a socialist order would aim to
reduce class conflict but balance power in favour of the working class.
o Social democracy ­ do not analyse society in terms of class, they see society as pluralist and
class as having a reduced importance; the state to be inclusive, protecting and advancing the
interests of all groups.

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Social justice and welfare redistribution
o Social justice is a difficult concept as it is claimed as a virtue by most political movements.
o Marxists and revolutionary socialists insist that capitalism can never produce a just
distribution because the system contains inequality within its own mechanism.
o If we can attempt to retain capitalism but remove inequality from it, capitalism as a system
won't work.…read more

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Democratic socialism ­ individual liberty to be preserved as long as it does not conflict with
socialist objectives.
o Social democracy ­ individual liberty and individualism are to be preserved and guaranteed
with almost no qualification.
o The charge that is most often levied by liberals against socialism is the curtailment of
o If liberty is fundamental to human existence, attempts to pursue greater equality represent
an affront to human dignity.…read more

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The term `communism' denotes the aim of destroying the existing class structure of society
and the institution of private property, thus transforming the economy.
o Communism was also profoundly internationalist. All states were viewed by communists as
the creatures of their own ruling class.
o There was an idea that class-consciousness would wish to overthrow the existing society that
exploited and oppressed the workers.
o Communism implies the abolition of all classes.…read more

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Introduction of divorce of ownership and control meant specialist managers were running
the companies instead.
o As the majority of the people were becoming middle class they would be less likely to
identify and support socialist principles.
o When socialist parties do now get into power it is now increasingly difficult for them to
legislate as much reform as they would like to. This is mainly due to the fact that other
institutions of power, for example the House of Lords, tend to be middle-class.…read more

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Social security benefits should be targeted at the most needy to ensure a decent standard of
living for all, and at those who are working/seeking work/unable to work.
o The Third Way was a term coined by Anthony Giddens and refers to New Labour policies
after 1992 that steered a path between socialism and neo-liberalism to social justice within a
free market, capitalist society.…read more

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Socialists are more optimistic that every individual is capable of becoming equal as long as
he/she has equality of opportunity and society is organised on a just basis.
o However in the mildest form of socialism ­ New Labour ­ it is questionable whether there is
much of a distinction in outlook.…read more

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Marxist view ­ The old bourgeois state had to be removed and replaced by a workers' state, a phase
known as the `dictatorship of the proletariat'. The role of this socialist state was to dismantle the
capitalist edifice, create a socialist society and create a classless society.
Utopian socialist view ­ Utopian socialists like Fourier and Owen didn't see the state as a vehicle for
socialism. The way forward for them in promoting socialist values were relatively small-scale,
cooperative communities.…read more

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Some socialists have claimed that common ownership of property is a Christian principle, pointing
out Christ's insistence that his followers pool their resources and share them out equally. Many
movements throughout history have demanded the seizure of land and its transfer to a communal
system of production.
It was the development of capitalism that brought about a more complex set of ideas relating to the
evils of private property and the virtues of common ownership.…read more

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In France, Auguste Blanqui formed a small socialist party of conspirators, which he hoped would
bring down the capitalist state and replace it with a permanent worker's government. This
movement was remarkably unsuccessful.
In practice the most successful revolutionary socialists have been inspired by Marxism. Fidel Castro
was not strictly a Marxist, but he did set up an all-powerful state to administer production and
distribution, and to impose social and economic equality upon Cuban society.…read more


Old Sir

This is a really useful survey of the roots of socialism and its development in various guises. Students looking to develop discussion around the nature of socialism might find this very useful, especially in conjunction with its impact upon competing political parties and their ideals.

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